Just recently, I had the opportunity to run an ultramarathon – which is defined as anything longer than the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles. This particular race was 31 miles at Green Lakes State Park and transpired on a perfect Central New York summer day. It was my first race of this distance in over six years and it went about as well as it should have – that is to say, painfully slow.
When you run that distance as slow as I do these days, you have a lot of time to think. As a matter of fact, for a large part of it, I was desperate to think about anything other than my aching quads and knees. One thing that kept popping in my head, was how incredibly similar long-term investing is to ultra running. That – and pizza. I thought about pizza a lot.
Just like investing, you start a long race with the very best intentions and enthusiasms. You have a plan and a picture in your mind of exactly how the day is going to go. This visual rarely involves pain and misery. On the contrary, every race I’ve ever run, my plan going in involved perfect nutrition and hydration, a well behaving stomach, an even/steady pace and a strong finish. Far more often than not, this is not how things ultimately transpired. It bears remembrance to when Mike Tyson was asked about his plan going into a fight and he responded — “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
In a race, there will be times when you feel amazing and can’t fathom feeling any other way. Then, without fail – something will go wrong and often, many somethings. Your stomach will get wonky. A hamstring will tweak. Knees will ache. Feet will hurt. A headwind will kick up. Rain will fall. And then, in an instant, you go from feeling strong to being in your own personal pain cave where you can’t imagine feeling any worse and just want the misery to end.
Long term investing is no different. You identify your goals and create a plan. You visualize what the end is going to look like and it’s a glorious image. When doing all this, rarely do most think about the pain that may occur between start and finish. Things will go well, returns will near double digits or higher and all is right in the world. Then, things happen. An inflammatory tweet about China trade. An inverted yield curve. Hong Kong protests. Next thing you know, you find yourself in the investing equivalent of a pain cave and you can’t see how it’s going to get any better.
Yet, the good news is there are other parallels as well.In running, it’s the training and past experiences. If you’ve trained even halfway adequately and have a few similar races under your belt, you know, deep down, the pain is temporary. You will come out the other side, you will feel good again and you will cross the finish line. The same holds true with investing. The training is the well diversified portfolio, matched to your risk tolerance and goals. This will always triumph over volatility in the long run, pun intended. Experience and history tell us this, time and again and we must trust it during the painful periods.
When you finish a long race, you get a medal, a T-shirt and hopefully some pizza and a nap. The reward at the end of a well-executed investment plan has much larger implications. We just have to fight through some discomfort at times to get there. Stay the course friends. Live well, live with love. Until next time.
Original content provided by Gregory Mattacola, Esq., Financial Advisor at Strategic Financial Services. Content is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis upon which to make investment or financial decisions.
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